Unless you live under a rock (my apologies to the trolls that are reading this article), you have heard and read about resolutions more in the past week than in the 51 weeks prior. While I definitely see value in setting goals, I am convinced that resolutions just don’t work.
“Blasphemy!” you say?? How many times you have made a resolution on January 1, and have actually seen it through until December 31? I can tell you that my personal record for keeping a resolution is about 30 days. Far less than the 365 in a year. If you are doing better, you can stop reading this article. Please, though, write your own, telling the rest of the world how you have done it. You may make a fine living if you truly have it figured out.
If, however, you are like the other millions of people in the world like me who have made and broken more resolutions than we care to count, I propose a change in thought process. What if we discussed setting habits rather than making resolutions?
I recently read the book The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. The key principle of the book is to focus on one thing at a time. The one thing you focus on should be derived from your goals. You set goals, then you define habits that will help you reach those goals. The authors explain that by establishing habits, you will effect change in your life, since a habit is ingrained in your daily routine. This process takes 66 days, according to recent research (not 21 days as previously thought). So, in other words, if you do one thing for 66 days, it will become part of your day to day activities.
My belief is that resolutions are nothing more than statements. If you don’t back resolutions with daily action to reach the resolution, it will fail. For example, you can make a resolution to lose 30 pounds in 2014. That is a goal. However, you must establish habits that will lead to that goal for it to work. What habits will you incorporate into your routine to establish that habit? Exercise? Cut sugar from your diet? Eat less? The only way you can reach a goal is to define the habits that will help you get there.
If you are like every business owner and manager I know (and I know a few), your primary resolution for 2014 is increased profits. If you run a nonprofit, this translates into increased capacity to serve your clients. In my experience, there are five habits that you can incorporate into your daily or weekly routine that will bring success, however you define it. You must read, write, laugh, focus and learn.
Read. I have developed a passion for non-fiction. I love to read various perspectives on productivity, leadership and business from people who have done it right. You can gain so much insight on running your business or improving your productivity just by picking up a book. No time to read? Order audiobooks from your local library or from online sources such as Audible.com. If you don’t like to read, start small. Pick up a business magazine or a copy of the Wall Street Journal at the store the next time you are shopping for groceries. To develop a reading habit, commit a certain amount of time every day to reading or listening to audiobooks. Even if you commit just 15 minutes of your time, I can promise you will do your job and handle your relationships more effectively by reading.
Write. I have a passion for writing. I know that not everyone shares that passion. I am not contending that you need to write a book or journal entry every day (although, if that suits you, go for it). I propose instead that you again start small. Commit to working through one issue or problem or brainstorming a new idea every day or every week on paper. By writing things out, you can disentangle your thoughts and see things more clearly. Don’t worry about proper grammar or spelling, just write.
Laugh. If you look back at the past year, did you laugh enough? My experience is, the more you focus on work, the less you take the time to laugh. Laugh more in 2014! I can guarantee you have the opportunity to laugh each and every day! Seize that opportunity! Watch a funny movie or TV show. Follow Ellen DeGeneres on Twitter. Find the joke of the day on the internet. One resource is http://www.jokes.com. Today’s joke on that site is “Why is the mushroom always invited to the party? He’s a fungi!”.Tell me that didn’t make you smile! When you laugh and smile, you project a “feel good” attitude, and others will enjoy being around you more. And, “others” include customers. See the connection?
Focus. Multi-tasking is a poor way to be productive. Many studies have shown that you actually get less done when you multi-task and the quality of your work suffers. Try focusing on one thing at a time for 66 days. If it doesn’t improve your productivity, go back to your multi-tasking ways. This does not mean that you only do one project at a time, only that you work on only one project at a time. When you have done all you can do on that project, move on to the next one. You must be intentional about focus, and it is difficult to do when our brains have been trained to do so many things at one time. The increased productivity will be worth the effort, however!
Learn. I covered some of this when I discussed the importance of reading. There are many ways you can learn in addition to reading, however. You can learn a new language while you drive by putting a CD in your car’s player. You can learn about entrepreneurship and successful business practices by subscribing to podcasts that you can listen to while you exercise. You can learn more about your kids, your spouse or your parents by listening to them. Take the opportunity to learn every day. Make it a habit. This requires awareness and focus (there’s that word again). Successful businesses are always moving forward. You must continually learn in order to avoid stagnation and maintain that forward momentum.
While all of these habits seem simple (maybe a little too simple), actually incorporating them into your life to reach your goals is tough. Tougher than announcing a resolution. I can assure you, though, that the return on the investment of your time to develop habits related to reading, writing, laughing, focusing and learning will be astounding and will bring your more success in 2014 than you can imagine.
Happy New Year!